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We Stand With Palestine

The weaponization of sexual violence in conflict: Justification for genocide and an active tool of harm and oppression
November 9, 2023

Omny Miranda Martone

I, Omny Miranda Martone, and the Sexual Violence Prevention Association (SVPA) stand with Palestine. We stand against the genocide, apartheid, mass murder, and other atrocities being committed against the Palestinians by Israel. This statement seeks to expose the weaponization of sexual violence within this conflict, both as justification for genocide and as an active tool of harm and oppression. 

We mourn the loss of the 1,400 Israeli soldiers and citizens who have died in this conflict. We mourn the loss of the 10,000 Palestinian citizens who have died in this conflict. We stand against antisemitism, islamophobia, and racism. We acknowledge that Israel does not represent all Israeli people, nor does it represent all Jewish people or the Jewish faith at large. We honor the Palestinian and Jewish leaders who have guided us in making this statement and taking action.

I am embarrassed to admit that I delayed making this statement because I was afraid. I was afraid of the potential implications for the SVPA. I knew where I stood personally. In that capacity, I have been organizing, protesting, contacting my elected officials, and more. As the leader of the SVPA, I wasn’t sure that I was the correct person or that the Sexual Violence Prevention Association was the right organization to make a public statement. But standing with the oppressed and fighting against genocide and colonialism is something everyone can and must do. Further, we must recognize our obligation to speak up, considering the privilege we hold as a US-based organization, especially as the US continues to provide funding, weapons, positive press, and propaganda for the Israeli government.

My fears have come true. Writing this statement has harmed the SVPA. This has directly resulted in the loss of a funding opportunity. I don’t say this to imply that we are making any sacrifice, nor do I say it to garner pity. I simply acknowledge it to demonstrate the sheer power and force of Zionism. To outright deny us funding is an attempt to force us into silence which highlights the importance of this statement in the first place. Our mission of preventing sexual violence requires standing against all forms of oppression. 

Because of my personal expertise and our mission as an organization, this statement will be centered on sexual violence. We speak against and expose the weaponization of sexual violence within this conflict, both as justification for genocide and as an active tool of harm and oppression. 

Definition of Sexual Violence

Before starting, we must define sexual violence. The following is the SVPA’s definition of sexual violence. Sexual violence includes all forms of rape, sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. It is both the result of existing power imbalances and a tool used to gain and maintain power, control, and oppression. This can be on an individual, institutional, or systemic level or a combination thereof.

IndividualInstitutionalSystemic
BriefThe source of power is a characteristic, attribute, or weapon.The source of power is from an institutional position or material control.The source of power is systemic oppression and marginalization of victims.
Source of PowerPhysical capabilities, mental abilities, intoxication, weapons, or other individual characteristics, states of being, or possessions.Position of power as a superior within an institution or other form of control over someone’s career, financial situation, housing, food, or quality of life.Societal power to act without accountability or to create systems to act with impunity while removing resources and support for victims or exploiting the lack thereof.
ExampleA perpetrator who uses their physical strength or a weapon to commit sexual violence. A perpetrator lacing their victim’s drink or an adult targeting a young child.A supervisor exploiting their power over an employee’s career to commit sexual violence. A landlord exploiting their power over a tenant.A white cis man committing sexual violence against a Black trans woman because he knows she won’t be believed or supported. Thus, he can get away with it.

Sexual Violence During Conflict

Sexual violence exponentially increases during conflict. The United Nations has dubbed this “conflict-related sexual violence” and research shows cases more than double during large-scale events. Sexual violence increases during conflict as a result of the dramatic shifts in individual, institutional, and systemic power that occur as a result of conflict. 

During conflict, wars, and genocide sexual violence is not only more rampant but is used as a weapon. It is used against refugees, hostages, and prisoners on the institutional level. It is also used by members of empowered forces to attack the civilians they oppress. 

In this instance, Palestine and its civilians have been stripped of power and autonomy on several levels resulting in rampant sexual violence. There are decades of confirmed cases of sexual violence perpetrated against Palestinian civilians by Israeli armed forces, prison guards, and police.

Sexual Violence as an Act of Genocide

Sexual violence is a weapon of oppression, colonization, and genocide. Rape and other forms of sexual violence can lead to death, both inherently and indirectly, such as in cases of suicide. It can lead to the conception of babies who share genetics with the parent’s attacker. It can lead to reproductive harm and the inability to have children in the future. It is the ultimate violation of the victim’s autonomy and sense of self. Agents of genocide recognize these implications and actively use sexual violence to gain and maintain power against the populations they oppress.

Sexual violence against Palestinian civilians is being used as a tool to gain and maintain power, control, and oppression over the Palestinians by stripping them of their dignity and power in every capacity. 

Sources of Power 

To be clear, there have been confirmed instances of Palestinians committing sexual violence against Israelis. However, these instances are uncommon and many widely-reported cases have since been retracted or disproven. Further, most of these cases have been committed by members of Hamas, not Palestinian civilians. Regardless, all sexual violence committed by Palestinians or Hamas members is inexcusable. We grieve for their victims.

The sexual violence committed by Palestinians against Israelis is the result of individual levels of power. The power imbalances that exist at the moment within Israel and Palestine, all clearly identify Israel as the more powerful institution. Hamas does not have institutional or systemic power over the Israeli Defense Forces. Palestinians do not have institutional or systemic power over Israelis. Therefore, the Palestinians are in no position to exploit any institutional or system power to commit sexual violence against the Israelis. Meanwhile, Israelis hold individual, institutional, and systemic power over Palestinians. This power is regularly exploited to commit sexual violence against Palestinians. 

All forms of sexual violence discussed here are inexcusable. Sexual violence is not a form of defense. It is never justified. We condemn all sexual violence. Not just against civilians but against anyone. 

DARVO at the Systemic Level 

Israel is utilizing a tactic called DARVO. DARVO is commonly used by perpetrators of domestic abuse. It consists of three steps 1) Deny 2) Attack 3) Reverse Victim and Offender. Here is an example:

DARVO is used by agents of abuse at an individual level and agents of oppression at a systemic level. Israel is currently using it against Palestine. Israel has repeatedly denied that their soldiers, guards, and police have committed sexual violence en mass despite significant evidence proving it to be true. They have attacked anyone who dares to mention this fact. These attacks have included killing journalists and survivors for speaking out. The attacks have also included discrediting the allegations by baselessly claiming they are antisemitic. Then, most importantly, Israel has reversed victim and offender. They are magnifying the few cases of sexual violence perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis at the individual level while completely ignoring and deliberately obscuring the mass amounts of sexual violence committed by their soldiers, guards, and police against Palestinians at the individual, institutional, and systemic levels. 

Sexual Violence as Justification for Genocide

Israel is using sexual violence to justify their oppression and extermination of Palestine. Israel continues to paint the narrative that Palestinians are perpetrators of sexual violence and thus deserve to face torture, death, and extinction. This weaponization of sexual violence and this systemic use of DARVO is not new. In textbook cases of the weaponization of sexual violence, oppressors ignore and silence sexual violence perpetrated by individuals and powers within their group while simultaneously amplifying real or fake instances of sexual violence perpetrated by the oppressed group. 

These same tactics were used during the Jim Crow era. White supremacists claimed that Black people had to be separated, controlled, and oppressed because they were dangerous perpetrators of sexual violence. Real and false claims of sexual violence, such as the woman who lied about being sexually harassed by Emmet Till, were used as fodder to justify oppression while rampant sexual violence committed by white people against Black people was ignored.

Following the same blueprint as the Jim Crow era, Israel is actively exploiting power imbalances on the individual, institutional, and systemic levels to commit sexual violence and genocide, among other atrocities, against the Palestinians. They are denying these facts while also playing “the victim.” They are weaponizing infrequent instances of sexual violence at the individual level to push the narrative that their systemic oppression of Palestinians is simply justifiable self-defense. This is not true.

What do we do now?

The SVPA stands with Palestine. I am not making this statement out of charity, pity, or obligation. This is a statement of solidarity. My liberation and Palestinian liberation are one and the same. The prevention of sexual violence and Palestinian liberation are one and the same. 

Systemic power, control, and oppression will not end until sexual violence ends. Sexual violence will not end until all forms of systemic power, control, and oppression end. 

WE CALL upon Israel to ceasefire. We demand our elected officials call for a ceasefire. Ceasefire is the bare minimum. 

WE CONDEMN the genocide and oppression of the Palestinians. We demand our government retract their support for the apartheid state of Israel. 

WE CALL on our peer organizations in the United States to take a stand. You cannot remain silent. Especially If your organization is dedicated to sexual violence.

WE URGE the public to take action. 

Sharing, using, or quoting any part of this statement is explicitly prohibited unless it is shared in full by sharing this webpage. If you are a member of the press, please contact [email protected].

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